A word of caution!
It is often all too easy to become wrapped up in your optimistic hopes and dreams and not spend enough time planning the renovation and ensuring that enough finance is in place for the project to be completed. The last thing you want is to buy that perfect renovation project only to find two years down the line that the roof is still leaking because you haven't the money to fix it as you spent it elsewhere!
In England, before you buy a property it is standard practice to send in a chartered surveyor who can estimate the various costs of building repairs. This is not the case in France. You will need to ask a local builder, architect or a British chartered surveyor in France to check the structural state of the building and estimate what the repair costs will be before you buy. You should then add at least 25% for any hidden extras that the architect/surveyor may have missed.
It is also very important that you are realistic about the time frame in which your house will be ready to move into. A job that you might expect to take six months in England will probably take a few months longer in France especially if you don't speak the language as it will take some time to find builders who come recommended and whose work you approve of.
Once you have bought your quaint but dilapidated farmhouse in the south of France which you have chosen for its laid back atmosphere, don't be surprised when your tradesmen adopt the same attitude in their work regime... You will have to keep on top of them at all times to ensure that the work is completed on schedule and that everyone is synchronised.
If, for example, the electrician is booked to rewire the house within a certain time frame and he is delayed or does not turn up, then other jobs such as plastering that follow will also have to be delayed and rescheduled. This rescheduling may not be possible for some weeks which could in turn put other jobs behind schedule... patience is something that you will have to learn to embrace!
For instance, an English couple that relocated to the Rhone-Alps region in the south of France found that their project actually took two years rather than one year as predicted. They spent the first few months cooking with camping gas and portable cooker while the kitchen was being built - so be prepared to rough it a little during your adventure! Not that it's a bad thing: it can actually be very enjoyable cooking and eating in the great outdoors after a hard day's work watching the beginnings of your project slowly become the home of your dreams.
This particular couple actually spent the first few weeks living with their neighbours rather than staying in a hotel while the house was unlivable. The two of them simply went over to say hello and in a great gesture which you would find hard to come across in any part of the world, they were invited to stay for as long as they needed even though just moments before they were complete strangers!
The project was finally completed two years after they first bought the house and, regardless of all the headache and hard work they put in, if you ask them now they would say they really wouldn't have done it any differently. The stone farmhouse has become a haven of tranquillity and something that they can both be very proud of as, every evening when they drink local wine and eat Provencal food in their scented, colourful courtyard, they can look up at their house and truly say "We did that".
About the Author
Nick Dowlatshahi is the managing director of Leapfrog Properties, a UK specialist agency in French property. Leapfrog offer an online database of up to 200,000 properties for sale in France plus a personal service from fluent French speakers to help you find, view and buy your property. Leapfrog Properties website is at www.leapfrog-properties.com
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You have just bought your gorgeous old farmhouse in the south of France and all it needs is some renovation and 'TLC' to become the home of your dreams! A word of...